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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Q&A: Expectations For Contacting Home

Dear Students,

We have had a few questions about how often you all can expect to have internet access to contact home. Some students seem to be under the impression that they can expect to be in contact with home on average about once per week. With our rural itinerary through Cambodia, Laos, and China though, the reality is that the group will have less contact than this (and sometimes, significantly less). We just want to take this opportunity to set the right expectations regarding contacting home so that we can all be on the same page.

1) This Yak Board

As you know, the Yak Board is our main form of communication with home. This lets friends and family understand your experience through the eyes of you, your peers, and your instructors so that you don’t need to be in contact as often. We will be carrying an ipad with attached keyboard for the sole purpose of writing and posting yaks. We can usually find cellular data and post Yaks that way.

2) When We Can Access Internet

When we are in cities in Cambodia and Laos, you can access the internet at public internet cafes. Usually, using the internet and contacting home will be a choice for you during free time. Some students like to instead spend that time as extra exploration time in the cities.

We often hear the question on the course: “when will we be able to contact home next?” The answer will be: when we reach (in chronological order) Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Pakse (maybe), Thakhek, Vientiane, or Luang Prabang.

3) Security Restrictions

One problem that people have trouble with when traveling is that email accounts, bank accounts, or other secure accounts now often have “2-factor authorization”. This means that when you log in from a place that your account doesn’t recognize, it will want to send a text message or email to you. You can pre-empt this problem by turning off this security feature if you want. Some students have been locked out of accounts and unable to access them for the duration of the program.

4) China & Google/Social Media

The final month in China, it is very difficult to get online. Public internet access is largely limited to personal smartphones, which we will not be carrying. Please expect to be largely out of touch for our time in China.

In addition to lack of public internet access, China blocks all Google products. If you use Gmail as your email provider, you will not be able to access it. If you feel that during our month in China, you will absolutely need to access your email or other Google services, please create an email account on another service instead, like Yahoo. You can even have messages forward from your Gmail account temporarily.

You can expect for your social media accounts to be blocked too FYI due to restrictions in China.